WASHINGTON – A high-ranking Army officer will be criminally charged in connection with the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, his attorney says.
Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan is expected to be charged by Friday by the Army with dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming an officer, lying to investigators and other crimes, according to his attorney, Samuel Spitzberg. Jordan would be the highest-ranking officer to face charges in connection with abuse of prisoners at the facility.
The Washington Post and The New York Times reported about plans to charge Jordan on their Web sites Tuesday.
"We're thankful that decision has finally been made, and we look forward to finally reviewing the evidence and making some decisions," Spitzberg told the Post.
The abuse scandal broke in April 2004 when pictures of prisoner abuse were leaked to the news media. Prisoners were beaten, sexually humiliated and forced to assume painful positions while being photographed.
Army spokesman Col. Joseph Curtin told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Jordan has not been charged. After any charges, the next step would be a preliminary hearing to determine whether a court-martial or other action was warranted.
Jordan, a reservist who has remained on active duty for three years, is currently stationed in the Washington area, Spitzberg said.
"We've not had an opportunity to review the evidence, and look forward to doing that and determining whether there is a direct link with the abuses at Abu Ghraib," Spitzberg told the Times.
Jordan was not making any public statement, his attorney said. Efforts by the AP Tuesday night to reach Spitzberg were not successful.
The public release of the photos in television and newspaper reports caused condemnation worldwide and triggered months of investigations, recriminations and a re-examination of U.S. policy on prisoners.
Meanwhile, human rights groups said Wednesday that allegations of detainee abuse, torture and killings have now implicated at least 600 U.S. military and civilian personnel deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison for terrorist suspects.
Those findings counter the Defense Department's assertion that Abu Ghraib was an aberration, according to a report compiled by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First.
"Two years ago, U.S. officials said the abuses at Abu Ghraib were aberrations and that people who abused detainees would be brought to justice," said Meg Satterthwaite, a professor at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University Law School.
"Our research shows that detainee abuses were widespread ... and few people have truly been brought to justice," she said in a statement.
In response to similar criticism over the past two years, Pentagon officials have defended the Defense Department's response to the Abu Ghraib abuse, calling it one of the most closely scrutinized matters in the history of the military.
Only a fraction — 40 people — have been sentenced to prison time for the abuse, according to the report by the human rights groups.
The groups said they researched and analyzed tens of thousands of pages of government documents, interviews with witnesses and victims and previous Pentagon probes into the abuse.
"We've seen a series of halfhearted investigations and slaps on the wrist," said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. "The government seems more interested in managing the detainee abuse scandal than in addressing the underlying problems that caused it."